Progress Toward Restoration
Keeping the Focus on Beneficial Uses
The Commission notes that many of the actions being implemented in United States Areas of Concern are driven by a multiplicity of programs with different priorities, such as the United States Superfund program. As actions in the United States Areas of Concern approach a point where large-scale projects near completion (such as sediment remediation under a U.S. Superfund action), the challenge is to revitalize the Remedial Action Plan process and focus on fully restoring beneficial uses. The United States Great Lakes Strategy19 recognizes this need:
"By 2006, the SOLEC [State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conferences], LaMP [Lakewide Management Plan], and Remedial Action Plan processes will provide clear information on Great Lakes water quality measures, trends, and actions (e.g., water quality trends, fish tissue trends, beach closures, Remedial Action Plan and LaMP implementation, ecosystems restored); will be accessible to the public via the Internet; and will be updated on a regular basis."
(Note: SOLEC is a binational, biennial intiative organized by Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop and report on indicators of the state of the Great Lakes ecosystem.)
This United States commitment to the SOLEC process apparently represents a consensus between both governments. On September 25, 2002, Environment Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in cooperation with the Commission, launched a cooperative tracking program designed to more completely account for planning and implementation efforts related to contaminated sediment, wastewater infrastructure, fish and wildlife habitat, and hazardous waste sites in Areas of Concern. This initiative could help the government meet their commitment to SOLEC and Remedial Action Plan reporting.
Because of the centralized coordination in the early 1990s (i.e. oversight through the federal-provincial, multiagency Canada-Ontario Agreement Review Committee), 14 of the 15 Areas of Concern in Canada (including binational sites) had developed restoration targets. Planning participants in 14 of the 15 sites have reassessed the status of beneficial use impairments within the past five or six years20.
The Commission finds that there is confusion or a lack of knowledge on the part of some Area of Concern participants regarding the extent to which beneficial uses are impaired. According to the Canada-Ontario Agreement21, Canada and Ontario have committed to make "publicly available environmental monitoring information for evaluating environmental recovery and adjusting remediation strategies."
Considering that the restoration of beneficial uses in Areas of Concern is a goal of Annex 2 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the Commission is concerned that the general lack of knowledge regarding the status of beneficial uses by the agencies and the engaged public reflects shortfalls in Remedial Action Plan management, data support, communication and coordination.